Searchlights & Signal Flares


Tiny Lights' On-line Writer's Exchange

What's The Point? Why Write At All? (07/15/04)



Featured writer: Betty Winslow



Contributors this month:
Antwone Fisher
Betty Winslow
Jane Merryman
Pat Tyler
Susan Bono


What's the Point? Why Write At All?

by Betty Winslow

I don't
always have
a point
that anyone else
would recognize.
When I do, it varies.

To express my mind, my heart,
my knowledge, my thoughts,
my fears, my dreams.

To leave some of myself behind
for future generations,
especially
my granddaughter
Kendall.

To share my life
and my faith
with others,
that they may find an answer
(or possibly, not.)

To reveal the facets
of life in all its glory.

Why do I write?
I can't help myself.
I think so much better
that way
than I do in my head.
And as I write,
I learn.
I change.
I heal.

Bottom line.
I'm a writer.
Writing is what I do.
I don't need a reason
and I don't need a reader.
I just write.

Betty Winslow, writing in Bowling Green, Ohio, because she can't help it.

Antwone Fisher



I write to get out of my head and onto paper. Writing, with a pen or pencil, is an extension of my arm. When I picture my arm, it's elongated by the pen, which in my mind, is always there. Computer typing --- same thing --- the keyboard is an extension of me. Writing is as natural and as much a part of me as breathing. I would rather write than do almost anything else. I write because I get to see a side of myself that isn't always present. My daily concerns revolve around household chores, childcare (yes, even though my children are older, there are still daily activities that involve the care and feeding of them). My efficient me bustles about cleaning and scrubbing and waiting until I have a moment or two to write. And those moments are glorious. Because I'm writing for me. Not for any monetary gain. Not for notoriety. I don't need to be noticed to enjoy writing. But I do enjoy reading my work out loud in my writing group.

Simply, I write because I not only can, I have to.

The following quote from The Writer magazine, March 2004, eloquently answers the question, "Why write?"

"Why I write . . .

Life often has a way of making people feel small and unimportant. But if you find a way to express yourself through writing, to put your ideas and stories on paper, you'll feel more consequential. No one should pass through time without writing their thoughts and experiences down for others to learn from. Even if only one person, a family member, reads something you wrote long after you're gone, you live on. So writing gives you power. Writing gives you immortality."

--Antwone Fisher, Screenwriter and author, “Antwone Fisher”. “Finding Fish: A Memoir,” and “Who Will Cry For The Little Boy?: Poems”

What's the Point? Why Write At All?

  by Betty Winslow

I don't
always have
a point
that anyone else
would recognize.
When I do, it varies.

To express my mind, my heart,
my knowledge, my thoughts,
my fears, my dreams.

To leave some of myself behind
for future generations,
especially
my granddaughter
Kendall.

To share my life
and my faith
with others,
that they may find an answer
(or possibly, not.)

To reveal the facets
of life in all its glory.

Why do I write?
I can't help myself.
I think so much better
that way
than I do in my head.
And as I write,
I learn.
I change.
I heal.

Bottom line.
I'm a writer.
Writing is what I do.
I don't need a reason
and I don't need a reader.
I just write.

Betty Winslow, writing in Bowling Green, Ohio, because she can't help it.

Why Write?

  by Jane Merryman

Is anybody listening?

Will the current carry our bottled message to a populated shore?

Perhaps the game draws us—the process of stringing words into queues, rearranging them into brilliant configurations, rule following, rule breaking?

Could it be the sounds of consonants and vowels bumping up against each other, or the scritch of the pen point, the click of the keyboard?

Immortality?

Touching antennas?

The fun of wading in the stream of our consciousness?

A sense of accomplishment at the sight of a pile of code stacked on a corner of the desk?

Something to keep us from opening the fridge?

Maybe it's the sensation of unimpeded flow of gel pen on pristine paper?

Jane Merryman, Petaluma

Why Bother To Write?

  by Pat Tyler

I bother to write because, when I'm writing, I know who and what I am.

When I'm writing poetry, fiction, or non-fiction prose I believe I'm a writer.

I open my favorite writer's how-to book. From between its worn pages a cherished bookmark reminds me "A writer is someone who has written today." I'm inspired. I begin.

My fingers shoot across the keyboard during this extraordinary process of think-typing and trigger something magical in my brain. Annoying thoughts, both petty and grand, elope from consciousness. For example, during this process, I don't dwell on, or even think about, tenants, occupants of my beloved former home. My lush, green lawn and spectacular flowerbeds in the front yard? Dead. My perfect English Garden in the back yard? Dog run.

Often, when I bother to write, the mundane and often embarrassing incidents in my real life are temporarily forgotten - like showing up this week for my long-awaited doctor's appointment on Wednesday and being informed, rather impatiently, I might add, that my appointment was last week and on Tuesday.

When I bother to write I'm suddenly enmeshed in the intriguing company of fictional characters leading fictional lives far different from my own. I'm transported to the past or the future. The choice is mine. I'm living a life on this planet or another. I'm absorbed in a life (and sometimes many lives) that I could not otherwise live.

I know who my people are, what they think, when and where they live, how they feel and why. I know what motivates their every action. I know what they will do under any given circumstance. In short, I control them - absolutely.

If control corrupts, then absolute control corrupts absolutely - and I absolutely, maniacally, and gleefully control all my fictional people throughout their entire fictional lives. WOW! In this millisecond of cosmic time (called writing the novel) I am The Fiction Nazi and my people will obey.

Unless they revolt!

Hmmm …What if they do?

Aha! I will kill them!

But that's another story.

(And the end of this one.)

Pat Tyler, Cotati, CA

Susan Bono



You might as well ask me why get out of bed in the morning, why bother to dust the coffee table or change my underwear. There's no reason and every reason to write, the best one being it just makes my life better.

Writing enhances the quality of my life. I see this most clearly after one of the many periods when I neglect to do it. When I start writing again after weeks or months of avoidance, I notice how much more curious I become, how connected I feel to the other people in this world. I see patterns that I previously overlooked. My dreams get better. When I am writing, I am more interesting to myself.

Of course, there's a part of me that can puff up dangerously large that wants to write in order to be recognized and validated. I guess there's got to be some drive for recognition and status, or I'd never get past the first draft. But when I replace the goal of self-discovery with the desire for self-aggrandizement, the music I try to make is not so tuneful. Writing is only worth pursuing as a means, not an end.

Susan Bono is trying to stay interesting in Petaluma, CA.

Searchlights Editor:

Susan Bono

Columnists:

Christine Falcone, David Samuel Johnson, Betty Rodgers

Susan Bono is a writing coach, editor and freelance writer whose work appears in newspapers, anthologies and the Internet. She has published Tiny Lights, a journal of personal essay, since 1995, along with its online counterpart here at tiny-lights.com. From 2000—2005 she helped coordinate the Writer's Sampler series for the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. Her short essays and columns have appeared in various anthologies, magazines, newspapers and on the radio. Her most recent credits include Passager Magazine, Red Hills Review, the St. Petersburg Times, the Petaluma Argus Courier, the Anderson Valley Advertiser and KRCB radio's Word by Word.

Christine Falcone has been writing most of her life. Her work has appeared in print and online, and it has aired on public television and public radio. One of her writing goals for 2008 is to find an agent for her recently completed first novel, "This Is What I Know," which was named as a finalist in the William Faulkner Wisdom Creative Writing Competition out of New Orleans. She is currently in a new writing space, painted purple for inspiration, busily at work on another novel -- this one having to do with the nature of violence.

David Samuel Johnson was reared on a mountain in Arkansas. He lived the bohemian lifestyle in the Ozarks as a hillbilly vagabond, traversing the mountainside shirtless and most of the time shoeless, exploring the sensuality of the aromatic, organic-rich soil of the forest floor or the harsh poetry of greenbriers twined around a devil’s-walking-stick. As a kid he wanted to be a writer and own a snake farm when he grew up. His Mama knew she couldn't dissuade him from either goal. When he brought a poisonous copperhead snake home in his pocket, she bought him a book about snakes so he’d know which ones he could bring home and which ones to leave behind. When he wrote his first poem to a girl in kindergarten, she showed him how to use a dictionary so he could spell the word "beautiful." David's goal of a snake farm and the love of his mountain have manifested into a PhD in ecology. David’s dream of writing has evolved from his first poem in kindergarten to essays in newspapers to interview articles in magazines and columns in this journal. He is living a beautiful dream, some of which you can glimpse below.

David the Writer

David the Scientist

Betty Rodgers and her husband, Ken, live and watch birds in Boise, Idaho. A transplant among transplants, she has chosen to learn the local landscape through the lens of her Pentax K10D. Her writing career began at an early age when she wrote plays and coerced her boy cousins to perform them. She has enjoyed a life-long affair with journalism, writing for the Sacramento Bee, the Cloudcroft Mountain Monthly, the Sebastopol Times and News, and the Boise Weekly. Born in Steinbeck Country, she has also lived in Maine and New Mexico. Betty publishes a bi-monthly online newsletter for Idaho writers, a labor of love inspired by Terry Ehret. In 2006, she published A Mano, a book of poetry by the late Vince Pedroia.

Thanks to all who participated this month. It's good to know you're out there! We're looking forward to hearing from you and those you inspired sometime soon! Check this column each month to see what's new. Return to Searchlights & Signal Flares menu for future topics and guidelines.

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